Author Q+A with Maribeth Barber (Operation Lionhearted Blog Tour)
Her debut novel releases tomorrow, so today she is here on the blog chatting all things behind the scenes! If you haven't read my review of her book yet, click here!
1. This story has some very heavy and noble themes, but there is also a lot of dry humor which I loved! Which aspect of the story did you have the most fun with?
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the dry humor…because that was the part I found the most fun, too! I had no idea I could write so much banter between my own characters. Then again, I’d spent a lot of time writing Star Trek fanfiction by the time I began Operation Lionhearted. Writing snarky conversations between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy probably gave me a lot of practice.
2. Something you really hope readers pick up on or take away from in this story?
I’ve always resonated with characters who find courage once they embrace their true name and/or their calling. Similarly, Lindy eventually finds the strength to face her past—but only after she embraces who she truly is and who she was created to be. I hope readers pick up on that and are encouraged to do the same in their own lives!
3. Why did you choose this genre and setting for your story?
I was already quite comfortable in the “soft sci-fi” genre, thanks to Star Trek. But I also loved (and still love) the freedom of speculative fiction. I still have to do research and create the “rules” of my fictional worlds, but there aren’t as many necessary limits to my imagination as there would be in, say, historical fiction. Yet speculative fiction still lets me weave historical inspirations and weighty themes into my stories—something my favorite authors do to perfection.
4. Favorite storytellers/most influential storytellers on your own novel writing style?
Lois Lowry (author of The Giver), Marissa Meyer (author of The Lunar Chronicles), and Diane Duane (author of My Enemy, My Ally, one of my favorite Star Trek novels) had the biggest influence on this particular novel.
6. Just for fun, how did you choose the characters’ names? Did they come to you in the night or have a special meaning, or all of the above?
I tried to make sure they rolled easily off the tongue, and that the exotic, melodic Valyan names were distinct from the simpler, stronger Meridian ones. They all came to me pretty quickly (I even think Lindy’s did come to me in the night!), but Mariamne, the haughty Princess of Valya, gave me trouble up until the fifth draft. She started off as “Erixa,” which was too hard to pronounce, shifted to “Erica” until I decided that just wasn’t her, and finally became “Mariamne” after I read something about Herod the Great’s beautiful, ill-fated wife.
(Let’s be honest: if any character would give me trouble over her name, it would be Mariamne.)
7. As you’ve said before, you’ve been honing this story for 5 years and 7 drafts! They say great writers are actually great rewriters, and even the greatest stories take polishing. What advice would you give aspiring novelists with their first drafted manuscripts in hand?
Your first draft is raw and beautiful, and I hope you’re proud of it! Just know that it’s full of clutter. Think of it as a diamond that needs to be shaped and cut to its full, glittering potential. But know this, too: you will get to a point where, if you edit anymore, you’ll strip your story of everything that makes it alive. Trust your instincts and your beta readers on that one. You’ll all know when you’ve reached that point.
8. Who do you think would enjoy this novel?
This book was heavily inspired by Star Trek, The Lunar Chronicles novels, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the Mission Impossible movies—so if you enjoy any or all of those, then I suspect you’ll like Operation Lionhearted. As far as an age-specific audience is concerned, I did write it with my late-teen sisters in mind, but several adult readers have enjoyed it, as well!
9. I straight up stole this question from a writing website because I love it! What’s your favorite novel that you feel is under-appreciated?
The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter. Set in California in the 1920’s, it revolves around Jamie MacFarlane, a wounded veteran of World War I who finds health, purpose, and joy in a little seaside community. I haven’t read it in a while, yet this novel is so beautifully vivid, I can still hear the ocean by the Bee Master’s cottage, taste the plump crimson tomatoes Jamie eats on a daily basis, and chuckle at the memory of a certain little tomboy’s hilarious philosophies.
10. Finally, where can readers find you — and Operation Lionhearted — online? What’s the best way for readers to help you spread the word about this novel?
Operation Lionhearted will be available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon on October 13! Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are greatly appreciated, of course, but so is good old-fashioned “word of mouth.” If you enjoy my novel, I’d love it if you’d tell your friends about it!
Meanwhile, you can find me at my blog , where I chat about storytelling twice a month and host a monthly newsletter. Twitter is my favorite social media platform, and Instagram is a great place to catch all my blog updates.
Maribeth Barber is a small-town Southerner captivated by the tales of underdogs, homebodies, and royalty. She reviews movies, books, and television at maribethbarber.com, and is also a contributing writer for The Cultivating Project. A novelist from childhood, she lives with her family on their hobby farm in Louisiana.